The Call of Duty franchise has, since the very first game released way back in 2003, given players the opportunity to explore the jungles of Vietnam in Black Ops, conflict in the Middle-East via Modern Warfare, and last year's Infinite Warfare even let players venture beyond Earth and take the fight out into the vastness of space. Call of Duty is therefore no stranger to exploring warfare through different eras, both fictional and factual, but while this series has been exploring new frontiers, there has been a growing demand for a return to historical combat. Thus, for the next chapter in the world's biggest video game series, one that's crucial for the series going forward, a fresh take on proceedings was essential.
First off, several leaks hinted at a return to the European battlefields of World War II, in other words, a return to the origins of the series, and maybe even a return to form after the criticism from some regarding the space setting of last year's instalment (not from us, to be fair, we liked it). As long-time fans of the series, our eyes lit up when the setting was finally confirmed at the press event, because Call of Duty is diving back into the gritty battlefields of the Second World War. The franchise is dialling the clock backwards, and it's on a mission to reconnect with what made it what it is today.
As you might know, the series is now under the stewardship of three different studios, with teams taking it in turns to work on the annual franchise. This year it's Sledgehammer Games, and studio director Michael Condrey hadn't even introduced himself at the event before he started telling us about his enormous excitement for the game, elaborating on how they wanted to go back to World War II ever since they worked on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The message was clear, and was further enforced by Condrey's opening statement: "now is finally the time to bring Call of Duty back to its former glory." Bold words.
We were all in for a treat, then, as Sledgehammer showed one trailer, two gameplay videos, and a making of documentary - far more than we expected. The developers were without a doubt confident in their product and were eager to share this enthusiasm with the assembled press.
The trailer treated us to various battles that took place across the European theatre, and focused on an American squad and how their relationships with each other strengthened and developed throughout the various challenges they faced along the way. It featured scenarios including intense forest bombardments, small French villages and, of course, the landing at Normandy. The brief, cinematic look offered a taste of what was to come.
After the trailer, Condrey resumed the presentation by talking more about the narrative core of the game. The player will mainly play as an American soldier fighting towards the liberation of Europe and victory in Germany, but Condrey emphasised the importance of showing all sides of the war, however, and the squad will encounter an array of different nationalities including French resistance, and even the human aspects of the German forces (an aspect not often explored in the shooter space). There is, in other words, diversity, and Sledgehammer wants to reintroduce players to one of the greatest conflicts of modern history, and they'll do so with broad strokes.
The gameplay we saw took place during the battles of Hürtgen in the forests bordering Germany and Belgium. We got a quick look into the group dynamics of the main characters before they headed into battle, and noticed in particular the visual overhaul, and how the dynamics of weather, vegetation, and even the audio effects at times looked and sounded lifelike.